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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Transmitting the Bill for the Appalachian Region.

April 28, 1964

Dear Mr. :

I am today sending to the Congress for its consideration a bill designed to make possible the economic development of the Appalachian Region.

Appalachia straddles a ten-state area of more than 165,000 square miles, with more than 15 million Americans in residence. The general economic progress of the nation has passed Appalachia by--for reasons which are cheerlessly clear:

(1) Difficult--and in some instances-impossible access.

(2) Inadequate control of water--which breeds both floods and scarcity of water for industrial and recreational purposes.

(3) A mineral base of coal, timber and agriculture sorely in need of creative attention.

The visible lag of Appalachia justifies the special programs I respectfully request you to consider.

But behind the description of the need of a region lies the desolation of a people.

I have seen the despair and the hopelessness in the faces of these citizens. What exists in this area is a challenge to the ingenuity as well as the compassion of the Congress.

The roll-call of deficiencies in Appalachia is not a happy catalogue. In this region too little human potential is realized. Too ineffective a use of physical resources is a result. There is a shortage not only of promise, but of hope.

The investment I ask the Congress to make is as rooted in fiscal common sense as it is in human compassion.

The Federal government alone spends over $41 million in welfare relief in this area every month--nearly one-half billion dollars a year. With some 8.5% of the U.S. population, Appalachia receives of all surplus commodity foods distributed to the needy throughout the country.

This bill I submit to the Congress is the result of a year's study by the state governments and top Federal officials. It aims not merely at the symptoms of economic malnutrition, but at its causes. To label the region luckless or unblessed is no answer. Our response must be to put to this task the planning, the priority and the money required to assist those who want and need help for themselves and their families. To this bill I attach a copy of the report of the President's Appalachian Regional Commission, appointed by President Kennedy.

The initiative and concern demonstrated by state governments is encouraging. They came together, bound by a common problem and allied in a common goal. They approached the solution without regard to partisan politics.

I met with the Appalachian governors. I was witness to their sincerity--and their termination--to commit state resources to this attack on inadequacy. The Federal government should not stand aloof from their efforts.

The governor of Ohio has advised me that his State which was originally tendered an invitation by the Council of Appalachian Governors and the President's Appalachian Regional Commission to join with the other nine States of the Region in a joint effort to lift the economy of the area has decided to participate in the program. It is both appropriate and desirable that those portions of Ohio lying within Appalachia join with the remainder of the Region and accordingly the bill I am sending to the Congress reflects this.

The programs are basic. They focus on clear and primary needs--such as access to the land--construction of public works--and improvement of mineral and land use:

1. A developmental highway system of 2,350 miles, with a total cost of $920 million and fiscal year 1965 cost of $90,000,000. Although the Federal and State contribution would be on a 50-50 basis, where the States are unable to meet this formula, the Federal share could rise to 80 percent.

2. An acceleration of water facilities construction with emphasis on flood control, industrial, and recreational impoundments and sewage treatment. Fiscal year 1965 cost would be $45.8 million.

3. A pasture improvement program to convert marginal farm land to pasture for livestock production. Fiscal year 1965 cost would be $22 million.

4. An assistance program for timber management, manufacturing and marketing. Fiscal year 1965 cost would be $6.7 million.

5. Expanded programs for promoting new uses of coal, improved mining practices and land restoration following mining operations. Fiscal year 1965 cost would be $13 million. This figure includes a $10 million increase over the amount originally recommended by the Appalachian Regional Commission, based on my strong views in which I am joined by the Council of Appalachian Governors that the $10 million should be added.

6. Stepped-up human resources programs, with those programs administered by the Office of Economic Opportunity to be handled by that Agency when it is established. Fiscal year 1965 cost would be $71,000,000 of which $34,000,000 would be administered by the Office of Economic Opportunity.

7. Establishment of a Federal-State Regional Commission for comprehensive planning to guide all levels of government and private agencies in their continuing attack on the economic distress in the region.

This entire program--estimated at $228 million plus $34 million included in the anti-poverty program--was included in the contingency item of $500 million in my 1965 budget submitted to the Congress last January.

This is an active beginning to end an old problem in Appalachia. It is the judgment of both the experts who labored on the details of the program and the governors who monitored the plan every step of the way that this program will work visible improvements in a very short time.

I strongly urge the Congress to attach to this bill the urgency and the need that is so plainly written on the faces of Appalachian citizens. They are looking to you and to me for help so they can help themselves.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Carl Hayden, President pro tempore of the Senate, and to the Honorable John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The report submitted with the draft bill is entitled "Appalachia, a Report by the President's Appalachian Regional Commission, 1964" (Government Printing Office, 93 pp.).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Transmitting the Bill for the Appalachian Region. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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